Ring of Fire 3: Lion Strike
The doctor responsible for most of his own patients is back!
First things first. This film does not feature a lion in it at any point. Nor is any mention made of a "lion strike" of any kind. It does have a cougar in it for about five seconds, but even then it's sedated and in a cage. So, anyone expecting a man/beast interface of any kind (steady on missus, no sniggering up the back!) will be sorely disappointed, as was I, that nobody gets eaten alive or mauled. If you like your action tinged with helicopter-bound, machinegun-toting OAPs and the odd spot of fishing however, theOneliner.com mascot Don "The Dragon" Wilson's third Ring of Fire movie will be right up your alley.
Yes, Don is back as Johnny Wu, the spelling of his surname having inexplicably changed since last we met. For those of you who are unfamiliar (ie. probably everyone), or who haven't read my stunning review of the equally stunning Rage: Ring of Fire 2, Johnny is a kung-foo fightin' doctor in Los Angeles who likes to generate as many patients as he heals. Noticeably absent from this installment of the 'wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time' saga are Johnny's wife (who couldn't be tempted back by a meagre paycheque, or if you believe Wu "died in a car accident") and his spandex-clad comedy mates (presumably he traded them in for a new set of scrubs or something). Those who have seen the previous movie will know then that about 80% of the second movie's fat has been removed, immediately making this worthy of an extra star.
Ring of Fire 3 sees Johnny taking a break from the strenuous grind of surgery by retreating with his son to a cabin in the woods owned by a doctor friend. Why does he need this break? Stress? A run of dead patients? His wife's recent demise? Not exactly. While any of these suggestions would suffice, Johnny is the kind of guy who won't accept a doctor's note for anything less than involvement in a major firefight, and that's exactly what he gets here. In perhaps the most excessive setup for a "take a vacation" comment yet witnessed in a film, Johnny kills several trillion bad guys when an elderly mafia boss is busted out of hospital from under an armed guard. The scene climaxes when said coffin-dodger attempts to make his getaway in a chopper which, in order to raise the old Ford C4 Explodalot combusting car syndrome to new heights (literally), explodes when Wu shoots it a couple of times with a handgun. Messy. Understandably stressed by all this and the death of several colleagues, Wu ups and leaves for the hills for some quality time with his nipper.
Before this happens, he has a run-in with some other mafia types completely unrelated to the first lot. These ones are currently involved in the international sale of old soviet nukes through an agreement between the US mafia, Russian mafia, Hong Kong Triads, Japanese Yakuza and the Columbian cartels. Ah, such a show of international unity... Being such wealthy and well-organised sorts, they have decided to keep all their account details, charts, spreadsheets and possibly recipes for rice krispie cakes on a single floppy disk which, through a contrivance I'm not about to go into here, ends up in the hands of one Johnny Wu.
Upon reaching the cabin, Johnny and son Bobby head into town to buy supplies where they meet beautiful Park Ranger Kelly (Bobbie Phillips. Mmmmmm, Bobbie...). Single, attractive and, unsurprisingly for this kind of thing, able to take care of herself in a fight, Kelly takes a shine to Johhny and Bobbby, and they to her. It's dinner at eight, then, and so a lovely relationship begins to blossom. No sooner have they kissed goodnight however than a bunch of inept US and Russian mafia sorts arrive and start shooting the shit out of everything in sight. They want their disk back and they don't mind ruining Johnny's fetching cardigan to get it.
It's here that the movie kicks off proper (relatively speaking), with a cat-and-mouse chase through the wilderness that leaves no clich? unturned. It's all relatively formulaic stuff, granted, but it actually manages to be quite entertaining. Indeed, there's much here that isn't exactly shamed by the likes of The Hunted, which, when you consider the difference in budget either says a lot of bad things about that film or a lot of good things about this, dependant on your opinion.
There's lots of running about through the brush dodging bullets, grenades going off and triggering hidden catapults that propel people thirty feet in the air and another thirty feet forward, and one sorry sod even steps in a bear trap. So far so so-so. Things really start to heat up when the scheming Rusky henchman takes the genre-bending step of kidnapping the protagonist's son. Gasp! If it aint broke, don't fix it, and so it is arranged for Johnny and the Rusky to have a showdown. At this point Johnny seeks the advice of his old police chum Frank who showed up earlier after the disk-swapping incident and who seems to have chilled out a bit since the last film. No longer annoyed by Johnny's propensity to find trouble, he seems rather to have resigned himself to clearing up the ensuing debris and now the pair are friends. He imparts some wonderful wisdom along the lines of "there's nothing we can do; they said no cops!" and promptly disappears again, Jobsworth Award firmly in hand.
Resigned to facing the showdown in an old warehouse alone, Wu takes the disc and heads off to deal out some pain. After swapping the merchandise for the kid, Johnny is nearly duped by the gun-toting mob but manages to take his boy and hide him in a dark corner. Giving his bullet-proof vest to the lad affords him the opportunity to strip to the waste for the climactic encounter with Big Russian Bloke, showcasing his well-oiled pecs and probably securing funding for Atomic Beehive Massacre: Ring of Fire 4. Some lacklustre fisticuffs ensue involving chains, pipes and plenty of low budget chop-sockey before Wu's inevitable victory, aided in part by a triumphantly returning Frank. The day is won, the deed is done and father and son can finally get on with some proper uninterrupted fishing.
Ring of Fire 3 is by no means a killer 80 minutes of cinematic genius, but it is far better than you may have any reason to suspect. It is ludicrously plotted, very much over the top and has ambitions beyond it's budget, but at least it has a stab at entertainment with it's tongue very much in it's cheek. The atmosphere is slightly lighter this time, despite the absence of any mirth-inducing, horrifically dressed friends wearing headbands and denim jackets. Wilson is totally affable throughout, often managing a little self-deprecation, and the dynamic between him and his real-life son is at times genuinely touching. Don't get me wrong, this is still a thespian wreck of a movie, but at least nobody is taking it too seriously.
There are a couple of reasonable fist-fights here, although nothing too spectacular bothers to occur. At least this time the bad guys are grounded in reality, caricatures or not, as the frankly ludicrous assortment of foes on offer last time round had me expecting this installment to take place on the moon. More emphasis is placed on gunplay here, perhaps suggesting that Wilson either a) isn't the spring chicken he used to be or b) he wants to be seen as more of a 'general' action handyman than a martial arts specialist. Either way, I doubt this film did little to stem the flow of generic kung-foo beat-em-ups that followed, as evidenced by Wilson's subsequent return to no less than another three Bloodfist films in the following two years.
If, for any god-forsaken reason, you liked any of the previous Ring of Fire films then this will no doubt satiate your need, otherwise avoid. Actually, that's a bit harsh. I quite enjoyed this in it's silly little way, and given our appreciation nay idolisation of Wilson here at theOneliner.com I think it's about time I awarded Don a joint-highest "Dragon" movie score of 2 stars. Call me crazy. Call me easily amused. Call me in the morning when I'm sober and I'll probably have changed my mind, but for now let it stand. This, along with Cyber Tracker 2 is the best Don Wilson movie ever! Yay!
Craig Disko has awarded this movie 2 out of 5 Horny Disko Units.
Jonathan Wayne Wilson (Bobby Wu)
Bobbie Phillips (Kelly)